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Making the case: Zay Flowers vs. Jordan Addison

Should the Giants prefer one wide receiver over the other?

Jordan Addison
Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The New York Giants expressed serious interest in the 2023 wide receiver class. With the draft less than two weeks away, Big Blue may likely leave the first round with one of the top receivers in the draft class.

Two receivers the Giants have wined and dined are 2021 Biletnikoff winner Jordan Addison (Pitt/USC) and Boston College’s Zay Flowers. Both receivers lack the desired size but would offer important route nuance and the ability to create separation, which, according to Joe Schoen, is a critical trait he looks for in receivers.

I have Flowers and Addison in the same tier as players. I don’t think either is a slam dunk, but I slightly prefer one. It’s close, but here’s this edition of Making a Case.

Zay Flowers

A sudden smooth accelerating receiver who can successfully attack all three levels of the field. He was a two-time First Team All-ACC selection (2020 and 2022) and was a third-team selection in 2021. Flowers finished his productive career at Boston College with 200 catches on 345 targets for 3,056 yards and 29 touchdowns. He recorded eclipsed 1,077 yards in 2022 - his first time going over 1,000 yards; he added 78 catches and 12 touchdowns.

Flowers excels as a route runner who creates separation in various ways. Boston College also used him in the backfield to create mismatches; he finished his career with 57 carries for 345 yards and two touchdowns. He also returned punts in 2022. Flowers was a Biletnikoff Award finalist, and he earned the Bulger Lowe Award and the Season Golden Helmet Award in 2022.

Flowers was initially signed to play defensive back at Boston College but switched to full-time wide receiver. He set school records for career catches, receiving yards, and touchdowns at Boston College, which hasn’t had a wide receiver drafted since the 1980s!

Boston College offensive coordinator John McNulty schemed Flowers’ open. Still, the talented wide receiver would also create separation and yards through his talent. Defenses knew he was the player to stop, and most failed to contain him.

Flowers also went over the century mark in five games with double-digit touchdowns in five. Like most receivers in this draft class, his primary issue is size:

Flowers had highlight reel catches on his tape, like the 57-yard contested catch for a touchdown against Louisville, but he also had 24 career drops, including nine in 2022. He had a 10.8% drop rate in college. Flowers can be better with his concentration drops, but they’re just that - concentration issues; there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with how he attacks the football. Here’s my synopsis:

Zay Flowers is a quick - sudden - WR who can be used anywhere by a creative offense. He runs excellent routes and understands how to uncover versus man and zone coverage while possessing the ability to win at all three levels of the field. He does a good job of tracking and adjusting his body to the football while it’s in the air. He’s a very dangerous weapon when he has the football in his hands in space.

I wish his hands and ability to haul in contested catches were a more consistent factor in his game. Flowers didn’t see a ton of press alignments, but he had some success against Virginia Tech and Syracuse when they aligned in that manner; questions about his release package at the next level are fair. His size/measurement limitations are unfortunate, but Flowers is a good football player who can start early for whoever selects him in the 2023 NFL Draft.

Flowers may be relegated to a slot role, but it’s worth noting that he ran 65.8% of his routes from a wide position. The press concerns must be disproven, and he won’t be an “X” receiver, but I think he can operate as a “Z” move type of player who can win outside and in the slot, depending on the situation.

Jordan Addison

Addison had the luxury of playing with first-round quarterback Kenny Pickett at Pitt before transferring to USC and benefitting from 2022 Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams. However, Addison is very talented in his own right.

He won the Fred Bilenikoff Award (best college WR) in 2021 while being honored as a consensus All-American in his last season with the Pitt Panthers. In 14 games, Addison recorded 1,593 yards on 100 catches (144 Kenny Pickett targets) with 17 touchdowns; he went north of 100 yards in 8 games with one 200+ yard game against Virginia (he had four touchdowns that day as well).

Addison’s freshman year was also impressive at Pitt. He caught 60 of 87 passes as a true freshman for 662 yards and four touchdowns. He was named a Freshman All-American and was the ACC Rookie of the Year runner-up (current Los Angeles Rams’ RB Kyren Williams of Notre Dame won the award in 2020).

After his second season with Pitt, Addison entered the transfer portal and took his talents to USC, where former Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley started building his program. Addison caught 59 of 79 Caleb Williams’ passes for 875 yards and eight touchdowns. Defenses focused heavily on Addison, but he was still honored with a First-Team All-Pac-12 bid. Addison opted to forgo his eligibility and enter the NFL draft.

The 2023 NFL Scouting Combine did not treat Addison favorably; he was undersized, with tiny hands and sub-optimal testing. Despite the lackluster testing and measurables, Addison’s silky smooth route running impressed at the event and through his Pro Day. Here’s my synopsis:

Jordan Addison is an elite route runner who understands how to manipulate defenders to maximize his opportunities to get open on any given play. He creates separation with his combination of nuance and short-area quickness at all three levels of the field, and he does a solid job earning extra yards after the catch. Addison has solid overall hands, but his issues with drops in 2021 and 2020 were frustrating.

His frame, limited catch radius, and small hands are a concern when discussing Addison as a top-20 player. I was encouraged by his release package at USC. However, he still had several designed touches, which does beg the question about the consistent ability to separate against press coverage on the outside. Teams must ask themselves - how much will his size/play strength affect him in the NFL?

I love his ability to get in & out of his breaks with hast. The double-move against Utah’s Clark Phillips III (Q4, 8:21, fourth-and-3 for 48 yards) is a good microcosm to see how he leverages timing and manipulation in high-leverage spots to win. He sells his routes like a seasoned veteran and should be an excellent number-two wide receiver at the next level.

Addison aligned 75.5% of his snaps out wide at USC. At Pitt, they used more in the slot. Like Flowers, I think Addison can successfully be a “Z” receiver who can align in the slot or as an outside receiver on the front side of 3x1 sets. The 21-year-old’s career yards per route run was 2.64, and Flowers’ was 2.22.

Final thoughts

I could have made it easier on myself and chosen receivers I wasn’t as bullish on (for this draft) or receivers I had ranked further apart, but this makes for good discussion.

Both players understand how to uncover - a valuable trait in today’s NFL and a desired ability by Joe Schoen and the New York Giants. Addison had a better situation at both schools than Flowers, but Addison had more production with one less season than Flowers (tied in receiving touchdowns).

Addison also has a few inches on Flowers. However, Flowers’ ability to produce with ACC defensive coordinators constantly focusing assets to stop him was impressive. Both players are precise and controlled route runners. It’s close, but if I had to choose, I’d choose Flowers.

However, I think Addison may have a higher floor. Neither player has size, but Addison’s 170-pound frame (pro day) and his apparent marginal play strength - along with Flowers’ superior athletic ability - force me to lean in Flowers’ direction.

Neither player is commanding at the catch point, nor are they strong physical presences. Both let the ball into their body more than I’d like. They could both impact their respective teams in year one (depending on the situation). I like Flowers and Addison; however, neither would have cracked my top six in last year’s draft.